Chances are that you’ve heard of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but do you know what
premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is? Keep reading to find out what triggers PMDD and what the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder are so that you can recognize the signs and seek treatment or encourage a menstruator you care for to do so.
What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a menstrual health issue similar to PMS, but with far more severe symptoms. As the name suggests, this condition happens a week or two before your period starts, with symptoms often subsiding a few days after your period starts. This condition causes extreme anxiety, depression, or irritability in the days leading up to your period and can significantly impact a menstruator’s quality of life
What Triggers PMDD?
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder affects women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) and often occurs in women with anxiety or depression.
As with many other health issues faced exclusively by menstruators, the causes of premenstrual dysphoric disorder are not well understood.
It likely has something to do with varying sensitivity to the rise and fall of hormones and a brain chemical called serotonin throughout the menstrual cycle.
You may be more likely to have PMDD if you have a family history of PMDD, PMS, or mood disorders or if you’ve suffered any extremely stressful events.
Is PMDD Considered a Mental illness?
Unlike PMS, there are established criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-V) for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which means it is indeed a recognized mental health condition.
To be diagnosed with PMDD according to the DSMV-V criteria, a woman should experience at least five of the emotional and physical symptoms listed below in two consecutive menstrual cycles that disrupt regular activities.
15 Symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
1 - Mood swings
Rapidly fluctuating between different emotions and experiencing those emotions at the extreme is a symptom of PMDD. This includes crying often (without knowing the reason) in the two weeks before your period.
2 - Anxiety
You may feel on edge, unsettled, or tense at times before your period. In some cases, extreme anxiety may manifest as panic attacks.
3 - Depression
Consistent feelings of sadness or despair occurring in the two weeks preceding a period may be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
4 - Irritability
Everyone gets irritated sometimes, but if you notice prolonged irritability or even anger that affects your relationships, it may be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
5 - Fatigue
Experiencing notable tiredness or lower-than-normal-energy in the absence of other health conditions just before your period is a possible sign of PMDD.
6 - Insomnia
Do you have trouble sleeping in the days leading up to your period? If this occurs every month at this time in your cycle, it could be a symptom of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
7 - Changes in appetite
Having intense food cravings and binging on those foods in the weeks preceding your period is a sign of PMDD when combined with other symptoms.
8 - Bloating, cramps, and breast tenderness
Menstrual cramps, bloating, and sore breasts are a normal part of menstruation. However, when combined with at least four other symptoms listed here, it could be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
9 - Difficulty concentrating
If it’s hard to think or focus on school, work, or any tasks you normally have no problem completing, PMDD may be the culprit.
10 - Decreased interest in usual activities
When you can’t muster up the will to engage in your usual daily activities or relationships, that may be a symptom of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
11 - Feelings of being overwhelmed or out of control
Sometimes it all feels like more than you can handle. But if it feels like this monthly, keep an eye out for other premenstrual dysphoric disorder symptoms listed here.
12 - Suicidal thoughts
For some menstruators with PMDD, depression may be so severe that they experience suicidal thoughts. If this happens, be sure to seek professional help whether you have other symptoms or not.
13 - Increased sensitivity to rejection or criticism
Do events you’d normally take in stride cause you to go into an emotional spiral in the couple of weeks before your period? This kind of emotional symptom may indicate the presence of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
14 - Headaches
If you tend to get headaches before the onset of your period, whether it’s a dull, persistent ache or a more acute headache, don’t rule out PMDD.
15 - Joint or muscle pain
Aching muscles and joints every month before your period could be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder if you don’t have other ailments that would cause these symptoms.
What Does a PMDD Episode Look Like?
An episode of premenstrual dysmorphic disorder can involve any combination of the symptoms above in the two weeks before your period. They don’t need to occur simultaneously; you may experience one and then others, or you may suffer from a few at once. The variability in symptoms can overlap with other conditions, which makes PMDD hard to diagnose.
Does PMDD Ever go Away?
The only way to make PMDD go away is to stop menstruating. Usually, symptoms will go away after menopause when your hormonal cycle changes. Although there is no known cure for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, the symptoms can be treated to make it more manageable.
How to Cope with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
PMDD can take a big toll on your quality of life each month. Thankfully, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms. The first course of action to take is to ensure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting regular physical exercise, which is beneficial for both physical and emotional symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe certain types of birth control pills to treat symptoms of PMDD by regulating your hormones. Physical symptoms such as headaches, cramps, and tenderness can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications.
The intense emotional and behavioural symptoms of PMDD are what make it so much more challenging than PMS. Stress management techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and doing your favourite activities may help reduce the severity of anxiety, insomnia, and overwhelm.
If you are suffering from depression, you may want to explore a type of antidepressant called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) with your doctor, as there are a few of these that have been approved to treat PMDD because they regulate serotonin levels and improve mood.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms or know any menstruators who are, share this information from Aruna Revolution about premenstrual dysphoric disorder with them so they can understand why they feel the way they do and seek treatment.